How To Get A Cat To Take A Pill

Cat’s know their own mind, and one thing that they’re sure of is that they don’t want to take the pill you’re offering!

Even experienced vets can find getting a cat to take a pill is an almost impossible task. Trying the same thing at home might result in more than a few scratches and hurt feelings.

But we love our cats, and we want them to get the best care they can get. Because of this, we need to find an effective method for getting cats to take pills.

No matter how uncooperative our cats can be, it’s vital to find a way to administer medication.

Cats can be pilled by hand, or you may prefer to hide their pills in food. Pilling by hand requires a calm and confident cat owner, quick movement, and plenty of petting. Read this guide to find out more. 

Giving Your Cat A Pill By Hand

It is possible to give a cat a pill by hand; it just takes some care and patience.

  • Before you begin, you want to create a relaxed environment. Don’t disturb your cat while they’re feeding, grooming, or using the litter box. Make sure you have the pill ready before you start.
  • Place the cat on a firm surface. To avoid slipping, lat down a towel. If you’re doing this by yourself, you may want to wrap the towel around your cat, so only the head is exposed. 
  • Approach the cat from the side or behind, but make sure not to startle them. From this direction, it’s easier to hold the cat secure to your body and restrain the legs. 
  • You might want to lubricate the pill with a very small amount of butter, margarine, or cream. This should prevent the pill from getting stuck in the throat.
  • Hold the pill in one hand. Using the other hand, gently grasp the cat’s head, with the thumb and index finger on either side of the jaw. Use this hand to tilt your cat’s head back and upwards. 
  • You should find that the cat’s jaw drops open when its head is tilted back. If not, use the hand holding the pill to gently pull their jaw open. 
  • With the index finger, place the pill as far back as you can on the cat’s tongue. Move quickly! If you can get it on the back third of the tongue, your cat’s swallow reflex should kick in. 
  • Close your cat’s mouth, rub on their throat or blow on their nose to encourage swallowing. Tilt their head back to the normal position.
  • When your cat licks its nose, this is generally an indication that they have swallowed. Open their mouth to check if the pill is still there.
  • If your cat hasn’t swallowed, it’s best to start the process again. Use a syringe to squirt a small amount of water into their mouth to encourage swallowing. Don’t let you or your cat get stressed. Take a minute to calm down, with plenty of soothing strokes, before you go again. 
  • Make sure to praise and encourage your cat after they’ve swallowed their pill. Give them treats, so they learn to associate the pill with good things.

Hiding The Pill In Food

One of the most popular methods for administering pills to cats is using a bit of trickery. Try hiding the pill in your cat’s preferred treat and hoping they don’t find the bitter taste of the pill too off-putting to enjoy the food.

If you have a cat who loves treats, try wrapping their pill in their favorite food. It can be anything that your cat enjoys eating, although preferably food that can disguise the pill. This method only works with small pills that can be well hidden.

Many pet owners swear by pill pockets. These are soft treats with an indent or pocket for the pill to be placed in. You can then seal the pill pocket and feed it to your cat. 

Once your cat has taken the treat, keep an eye out to make sure the pill is swallowed. Sometimes, a cat will enjoy their treat and then spit out its pill.

If you do give the pill with food, always give a small treat. Don’t just put the pill into a bowl of food. Your cat will often just eat around their medicine, and it’s harder to monitor if the pill has been swallowed. If it’s left too long, the pill might start to dissolve.

Using A Pill Popper

If you can’t get your cat to swallow the pill by hand, you may prefer to use a pill popper. This is sometimes known as a pill shooter, pill gun, or cat piller.

They resemble large syringes. The pill is placed inside, and by depressing the plunger, the pill is released. 

Start by holding the cat as you would for manual feeding. Place the end of the popper into your cat’s mouth and gently push it forward. Press the plunger to release the pill.

If you want to use a pill popper, ask your vet for a demonstration beforehand. If used incorrectly, a pill popper can hurt your cat’s throat. 

Crushing Up A Pill

If you’re really struggling to get your cat to take a pill, ask your vet if you can crush the pill up. This can then be mixed in with a small part of their food, and the cat is unlikely to notice that anything is different with dinner.

To ensure the dosage does stay the same, use a pill crusher. When the pill is in powder form, mix it with only a small amount of food to make sure everything is eaten. You can also mix crushed pills with tuna water or broth.

Speak To Your Vet

If you really can’t get your cat to take a pill, you may need to speak to a vet about trying liquid medicine or other methods. 

Final Thoughts

Not all cats are difficult when it comes to medicine. Some will be more than happy to swallow a pill mixed with their favorite treat, while others will respond to careful handling. Make sure to keep calm and work quickly, and your cat should respond.

Courtney Trent
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